Huawei: 'We're not Chinese spies'

The Chinese telecommunications company has issued a report pledging to never cooperate with spying or espionage and refuting claims that it may have links to the Chinese government.

Zack Whittaker Writer-editor
Zack Whittaker is a former security editor for CNET's sister site ZDNet.
Zack Whittaker
3 min read

Don't worry, we're not spies. That's the message Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is pushing out in a bid to allay U.S. fears that the company may have been involved in spying or illegal activity for the Chinese government.

Huawei has released a 24-page report, written by former U.K. government chief information officer turned Huawei's global security officer John Suffolk, which states that protecting the network security of its worldwide customers is one of company's "fundamental interests."

Despite the U.S. and China's deep economic ties and mostly friendly diplomatic relations, the U.S. remains a thorn in China's side regarding cybersecurity and electronic espionage.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee issued letters to telecom giants Huawei and ZTE stating U.S. government concerns over their connections and ties to the Chinese government.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said in the letter that the committee was "concerned" the Chinese authorities could be hacking in or attempting to breach U.S. networks through its telecom intermediaries.

The Australian government also recently banned Huawei from bidding on the country's National Broadband Network contracts, saying the move was "consistent with the government's practice for ensuring the security and resilience of Australia's critical infrastructure more broadly."

Huawei -- which employs 140,000 people, with about 72 percent of its staff working locally in the countries where it operates -- serves 45 out of the 50 top telecommunications operators and mobile networks.

With so much personal, sensitive, and government-related data flowing through its technology, it's no wonder some are worried that it has links to the Chinese government.

A tour of Huawei's Chinese operations (pictures)

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Google famously pulled out of China in 2010, following hacking attacks on its networks. That's one of many reports that China has attempted to -- and succeeded in -- attacking foreign networks.

A lot of the Huawei report was self-serving "look how good we are" rhetoric, but it did attempt to allay fears that the company was somehow under the thumb of the Chinese government -- or anyone else.

To wit:

We take cybersecurity seriously and have invested substantial resources into our efforts to promote and improve the ability of our company, our peers, and others to provide the best-possible security assurance and ensure a safer and more secure cyberworld for all.

The report calls for a worldwide effort to break down the barriers created by differing legal and technical security standards, noting that current laws are outdated and fail to address core threats.

[F]or our survival, we have never damaged any nation or had the intent to steal any national intelligence, enterprise secrets, or breach personal privacy and we will never support or tolerate such activities, nor will we support any entity from any country who may wish us to undertake an activity that would be deemed illegal in any country.

In this context, with the eyes of the world always upon us, with us positively encouraging audits and inspections of our capabilities, those that wish a vendor to undertake such an activity is more likely to select a company that is under less scrutiny.

A Huawei representative speaking to Reuters said the report was not a direct response to disgruntled U.S. and Australian legislators, but that it nonetheless "does apply" to those situations.

"We deny that" Huawei had been asked by the Chinese government to spy on firms or governments abroad, the representative added.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Huawei in cybersecurity pledge: 'We're not Chinese spies.'"